It seems like 2015 has been a banner year for stranger-than-fiction documentaries. Whether it’s diving into Nirvana or Scientology, exposing criminals in real-time or probing the darkest corners of Americana, we’ve spent more time talking about documentaries in the last six months than in entire years before then. Part of it could be that HBO has been absolutely killing it with its selections, or that with a never-ending reel of superhero franchises, people are looking for something more grounded in reality. Or maybe it’s that, in the age of 24-hour news cycles and constant hot-takes, it’s refreshing to see a real-life story that took time to tell. Whatever it is, we like the trend. And to show our support, Newsweek staffers have picked some of their favorite documentaries from the first half of 2015 for a biased rundown of all the greatness we saw on TV, in theaters and along the festival circuit this year. Let’s hope the next six months follow suit.
All Things Must Pass
Colin Hanks’ long-in-the-making documentary about Tower Records is ostensibly a tribute to the doomed record chain, which went bankrupt in 2006, and more broadly a story about the great rise and collapse of the retail music industry. That’s a tale that deserves to be told on-screen, and All Things Must Pass gives an unexpectedly intimate and emotionally-charged telling. The movie’s primary interview subjects are music nuts who can call on three- and four-decade-long careers getting high—figuratively and otherwise—at Tower’s storied West Coast locations. That’s not to mention high-profile customers like Elton John and Bruce Springsteen, both of whom appear. They talk about Tower Records and its eccentric founder/champion Russ Solomon with a reverence that’s enough to trigger your nostalgia for the long-gone store, whether or not you were one of its fawning shoppers. Zach Schonfeld